Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, good evening. My name is Pierre Karl Péladeau, and I am President and Chief Executive Officer of Quebecor Media. I am joined by my colleague Jean-François Pruneau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vidéotron.
For more than 55 years, Vidéotron has been demonstrating its unwavering commitment to infrastructure development across Quebec and in eastern Ontario. Driven by homegrown talent, our company plays a leadership role in the country's economic ecosystem. Our company's footprint on the economic development of Quebec and its regions is undeniable, and we obviously intend to continue moving in that direction.
The billions of dollars invested in our telecommunications network and in new technologies speak for themselves. In addition to advancing change in the country's telecommunications sector, we have been able to establish a network that is recognized internationally for its reliability and robustness. The past few months we have gone through together are a testament to the calibre of our infrastructure.
We are here today to reiterate our willingness to participate in the country's economic recovery. Although difficult months lie ahead, they also provide an unprecedented opportunity to which Quebecor and Vidéotron are ready to contribute. Over the past few years, we have stepped up countless times to present solutions to better serve our fellow Canadians experiencing connectivity issues or suffering from a lack of competition in their area. We need only think of the investments made by Vidéotron to serve the people of Abitibi, who had been suffering for dozens of years from a highly profitable monopoly held by Bell and its regional affiliates.
By late 2022, Vidéotron will connect, in collaboration with both levels of government, more than 37,000 Quebec households that don't currently have high-speed Internet. This commitment is the largest among all telecommunications companies in Quebec. The evidence is clear and we have shown that we want to and can compete with large national players, and we fully intend to continue moving in that direction.
Quebeckers pay less than those in the rest of the country for their telecommunications services and have access to the best client experience because of Vidéotron, which will have forced the hand of the three national giants that would otherwise continue to provide fewer services at a higher cost, as they do elsewhere in Canada.
To achieve those results, Vidéotron has invested, since 2008, over $1.5 billion in the building and evolution of its network, as well as more than $1.2 billion to acquire mobile frequencies. That money has gone directly into the public purse. We want to continue our investments, so that more Canadians could have access to advanced technologies at a fair price.
However, Vidéotron will only be able to fully play its role if regulatory organizations and political decisions-makers are ensuring that the large national players cannot profit from their dominant position to threaten facilities-based competition. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, issued two decisions favourable to this last week: one decision focused on mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, and the other one focused on access to Bell's support structures, the famous poles.
Last Friday's decision on access to Bells' poles is clear: Bell has broken a number of rules and has knowingly violated the Telecommunications Act when we look at its anti-competition practices to block access to its support structures and thereby undermine Vidéotron's efforts to provide an additional choice to benefit Canadian consumers.
That decision was issued following steps undertaken by Vidéotron. It was reaffirmed by many stakeholders, including municipalities and other telecommunications service providers, who have been speaking out against those unfair tactics for months.
The CRTC's decision is clear and concludes unambiguously that the preferential treatment Bell has given itself and the disadvantage it has imposed on Vidéotron are undue and unreasonable. That decision comes with monetary penalties of up to $10 million. The impact of Bell's anti-competitive behaviour is especially serious. If Bell's opposition is not permanently eliminated, our ambitious collective project to finally connect all Canadians will remain unfeasible, and the digital divide separating our fellow Canadians in rural regions from those in urban areas will persist.
Of course, to respond to collective pressure, Bell recently boasted of having improved its operational processes. That's very well, but one thing is certain: it is crucial for governments to maintain this pressure on Bell concerning access to its support structures. They should even consider the possibility of stiff penalties should Bell refuse to comply with the legislation, as is too often the case.
Bell's dominance is not the only threat to facilities-based competition, as the recently proposed transaction by Rogers to acquire Shaw is another such threat. In fact, approving such a transaction will inevitably send us back to the drawing board and eliminate the fourth player essential to maintaining true competition in Canada's wireless market.
That would also go against the recent CRTC decision on MVNOs, where the commission writes the following:
The Commission's determinations in this decision will foster continued innovation and investment in, and affordable access to, high-quality telecommunications facilities in all regions of Canada, including rural and remote areas; promote sustainable competition that provides benefits such as affordable prices and innovative services to Canadians; and reduce barriers to entry into the market.
That is actually why we urge that the main transaction, that of consolidating wireline networks, be subject to the disposal of Freedom Mobile's assets by including the conditions necessary to the effective operation of a wireless network, including spectrum holding, roaming agreements, tower sharing and a fair agreement for the use of wireline transport, which we refer to as backhaul in our jargon.
In closing, Canada's economic prosperity and the well-being of all Canadians largely depend on builders of telecommunications networks like Vidéotron deploying their networks and providing unimpeded services in a very competitive but fair market. As a result, it is crucial for regulatory organizations and political decision-makers to ensure that large national players cannot take advantage of their dominant position to threaten facilities-based competition. This way, all Canadians could benefit from a competitive environment, numerous choices and lower prices for telecommunications services.
Thank you for your attention.